Freedom from feminist constraint is a common theme in Kate Chopin’s work. She is in fact considered one of the first feminist writers that would, later on, emerge more prominently in the late 20th century. What might perhaps set her aside from other feminist writers is that for most of her adult life she conformed to the conventional role of housewife, it is not until her husband’s death that she begins her career in the literary arts. Although we can never speculate as to her feelings about her husband’s death, we can state that it has had an immense impact on her writing. Freedom from feminist constraint through the death of a patriarch is explored in “The Story of An Hour”. What we understand about Mrs. Mallard’s desire for freedom in the story is that she doesn’t feel like she is her own person and is only through the absence of the patriarch (her husband) that she feels she can come into her own being. When he again becomes present, she knows that she would again be an object. By examing the text, specifically her contemplation, we will then determine if she had achieved freedom in her own death.
We can induce that Mrs. Mallard was in at the least in a loving and steady marriage. Mr. Mallard did exhibit some form of care and sensitivity to his wife. This is exhibited in the following quotation,” she knew that she would weep again when she saw the kind, tender hands folded in death; the face that had never looked save with love upon her, fixed and gray and dead.”. She does feel remorse for the loss of her spouse and that this is a bittersweet moment in her life, although the latter (sweeter) more so as she contemplates more on what this means for her. It is important to note that she holds no resentment for her husband because it demonstrates that the confines she finds herself were constructed outside of their relationship.
As I stated in the introduction Mrs. Mallard does not feel she can act out of her own will and consciousness. She must always be in mind of her role as a married woman. In other words, everything that she does reflects as well as affects her husband’s reputation. This is the predicament that many upper-class women found themselves at the time the story was written. And so her life is not her own. As written in the text “There would be no one to live for during those coming years; she would live for herself. There would be no powerful will bending hers in that blind persistence with which men and women believe they have a right to impose a private will upon a fellow creature” With him gone and no one men to associate (or belong to), her actions are own to decide and to be judged for.
To conclude Mrs. Mallard does not find freedom in her death. She only thought about the possibilities that it may bring but she did not exercise that freedom.